Nerlens Noel may have missed a quarter of the regular season, but there was little doubt who the top defensive player and freshman in the Southeastern Conference was this year.
The Kentucky freshman forward was named SEC Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year by the league’s coaches on Tuesday. Noel was one of several Wildcats to earn season-ending conference honors from the league on Tuesday.
Sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer was tabbed SEC Sixth Man of the Year, and Noel, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein were all named to the SEC All-Freshman Team. Noel was also named to the eight-man All-SEC First Team and All-Defensive Team.
Noel averaged 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in 24 games played. He logged 106 blocked shots and 50 steals to become just the second player in school history to amass 100 or more blocked shots in a season. His 50 steals were the fifth most by a Kentucky freshman in a single season.
Despite missing the final seven regular-season games of the year, Noel’s 106 blocks on the season ranks third all-time among SEC freshmen behind Anthony Davis (186) and Shaquille O’Neal (115). He set a UK single-game record with 12 blocked shots at Ole Miss.
The Everett, Mass., native is the fifth Wildcat to earn SEC Freshman of the Year honors and the fourth consecutive honoree, joining Anthony Davis (2012), Terrence Jones (2011), DeMarcus Cousins (2010) and Patrick Patterson (2008). His honor as the Defensive Player of the Year is the third such accolade in school history. Davis (2012) and Chucky Hayes (2005) preceded him in winning the award.
Wiltjer captured SEC Sixth Man of the Year honors after averaging 10.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He’s scored in double figures in 15 games this season. The Portland, Ore., native earned SEC Player of the Week accolades once during the season and turned in the first 20-point, 10-rebound game of his career in his second season at UK. He’s the second player in school history to win the award after Darius Miller became the first honoree in 2012.
Cauley-Stein averaged 8.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game in his freshman campaign. He also added 58 blocks and 23 steals, while shooting at a team-high 63.1 percent from the field. Cauley-Stein has registered four double-doubles on the season.
Goodwin topped the team in scoring with an average of 14.1 points per outing. He logged 23 double-figure scoring games and became just the ninth freshman in school history to sink 100 or more free throws in his first season.
Poythress ranked second on the squad in points per game (11.6) and rebounds per game (6.2). He became the first player since Jodie Meeks in 2008-09 to score 20 or more points in four consecutive games this season. He chipped in with 16 total double-figure scoring outings this year.
Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope took home SEC Player of the Year honors and Florida’s Billy Donovan was tabbed SEC Coach of the Year.
All-SEC First Team
Trevor Releford, Alabama – G, 6-1, 195, Jr., Kansas City, Mo.
Erik Murphy, Florida – F/C, 6-10, 238, Sr., South Kingstown, R.I.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia – G, 6-5, 205, So., Greenville, Ga.
Nerlens Noel, Kentucky – F, 6-10, 228, Fr., Everett, Mass.
Johnny O’Bryant III, LSU – F, 6-9, 256, So., Cleveland, Miss.
Phil Pressey, Missouri – G, 5-11, 175, Jr., Dallas, Texas
Jordan McRae, Tennessee – G, 6-5, 178, Jr., Midway, Ga.
Elston Turner, Texas A&M – G, 6-5, 209, Sr., Sacramento, Calif.